Roma director Francesco Totti backs Napoli to lift Serie A title

[ad_1]

Francesco Totti has become a Roma director after retiring from playing.

Francesco Totti backed Napoli to win the Serie A title as he received the Exceptional Achievement Award at the 2018 Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony in Monaco on Tuesday.

Totti, 41, became only the third recipient of the prize after U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps and Chinese tennis player Li Na.

And speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, the former striker said he would be happy to see new Serie A champions after Juventus won the last six titles in succession.

“It would be better if Napoli won it,” he said. “Otherwise it would all just become monotonous with Juve.”

Totti became a Roma director after retiring as a player last summer after 25 years at the club, and said he was struggling to adjust to his new role.

“I’m scared of life,” he said. “I’m scared of the future. I’m missing all the simple things, like lacing up my boots, playing in games, the rituals in the dressing room, the dinners with my teammates — all things which were my life in these years.”

Totti remains a Roma fan and said he was convinced they would finish in the top four this season despite slipping behind Lazio and Inter Milan following defeat to AC Milan at the weekend.

“I’m not concerned because I believe in [coach Eusebio] Di Francesco and I think he’s going to make this team great,” he said.

“We had three wins in a row in the league and then there was a bit of a stumble in the Champions League followed by the ugly defeat to Milan, but it’s not such a critical situation.

“There’s only one remedy for it and that’s to be united and move on, pursuing a common goal, which is to go as far as possible in the Champions League and in Serie A.

“But the most important thing is we keep all the external rumours out and ensure the team, club and coach stick together.”

Roma lost 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their round-of-16 Champions League clash, and Totti said he had been surprised by their struggles in the second half.

“I couldn’t have imagined it being so bad after the first half we played in Ukraine, but we’ve got all that it takes to turn the tie around and earn our place in the next round,” he added.

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.



[ad_2]

Source link

Radja Nainggolan rejected Chelsea transfer to stay with Roma

[ad_1]

Former Chelsea midfielder Craig Burley assesses whether Antonio Conte will still be at the helm in mid-March by the end of their brutal run of upcoming fixtures.
Steve Nicol and Alejandro Moreno explain why Antonio Conte erred by removing Eden Hazard from Chelsea’s loss to Man United, despite the manager citing Hazard’s fatigue.

Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan says he turned down Chelsea and several other clubs in favour of a happy life in Rome.

The Belgium international has frequently been the subject of transfer speculation, most recently with rumours of a move to China in the winter. However, he has remained faithful to Roma and intends to continue his career and life in the Eternal City — because that is what makes him happy.

“I could have gone to Chelsea and many other clubs, but starting something knew when you are 28, 29, in a new culture, another lifestyle, that’s not for me,” he told Belgium’s Sport Voetbal Magazine. “I prefer to stay where I feel good.

“If money were my only motivation, I would have changed clubs many times and my salary would have grown, but my first priority is to live well. You need to live well and be happy playing where you are and I have both of those things here. Everything is perfect; my family is happy in Rome.

“There are lots of good restaurants and it’s a good place to go shopping. When friends or family come to visit, you can send them almost anywhere.

“I’m liked at the club and the supporters are behind me. I’ve given a lot on the field and I get a lot of respect for that. As a footballer, that’s one of the best things you can get. I grew up in Antwerp, but I became a man in Italy. As things stand, I can see myself living in Rome in later life.”

Radja Nainggolan joined Roma from Cagliari in 2014.

Nainggolan still hopes to travel to Russia this summer as part of the Belgium national team.

He was left out of Roberto Martinez’s first squads since the former Wigan and Everton coach claimed he did not fit in with his style of play, but Nainggolan still hopes to convince him that he deserves a place on the plane to Russia.

“I think that, based on my performances in recent years, I deserve to be part of the squad,” he said. “I would put myself in as one of the two central midfielders in a 3-4-2-1 — that is my best position. But the most important thing is being part of the World Cup squad. I missed the last World Cup.

“I’m feeling good, just ask around. I’m not a troublemaker and I’ve never had problems with other players. Furthermore, my Red Devils teammates are always coming to visit me in Rome. Maybe I need to try to be a bit better with the coach of the national team [Roberto Martinez], even if I’ve never had problems with him.

“Sometimes you have to be able to accept that choices are made that you do not agree with. I’m still missing one thing: experiencing a World Cup. Preferably this World Cup. If I miss this, I would be very sorry.”

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.



[ad_2]

Source link

PSG – Neymar to have surgery out for Real Madrid clash

[ad_1]

ESPN FC’s Julien Laurens believes PSG were trying not to give too much away on Neymar’s injury before his dad revealed the Brazil star would miss 6-8 weeks.

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed that Neymar will have surgery in Brazil later this week after he sprained his right ankle and cracked his fifth metatarsal toward the end of Sunday’s 3-0 Ligue 1 win over Marseille.

The Ligue 1 leaders have revealed that after three days of rest and various tests, the only option available was to operate on the Brazilian superstar.

Neymar will now miss next week’s Champions League round-of-16 second leg with Real Madrid at Parc des Princes.

Neymar's injury could have far-reaching implications for his club PSG and national team Brazil.
Neymar injured his ankle and fifth metatarsal in Sunday’s win.

A PSG statement read: “After an initial treatment period of three days, in line with a strict medical protocol, a joint decision has been taken between the medical staffs of both PSG and the Brazil national team.

“In accordance with the player, it has been decided that Neymar will undergo surgery in Brazil at the end of this week.

“He will be operated on by doctor Rodrigo Lasmar and accompanied by PSG’s Professor [Gerard] Saillant.”

PSG have not stated how long Neymar will miss, but in an interview with ESPN Brazil, his father indicated that it will be somewhere between six to eight weeks.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



[ad_2]

Source link

Transfer Rater: Kane to stay at Spurs, Lewandowski to Madrid & Jorginho to Liverpool?

[ad_1]

Previous

Tottenham Hotspur

Rochdale

6

1

FT

Game Details

Juventus

Atalanta

1

0

FT

Leg 2Aggregate: 2 – 0

Game Details

Lazio

AC Milan

(4) 0

(5) 0

FT-Pens

Leg 2Aggregate: 0 – 0

Game Details

Paris Saint-Germain

Marseille

3

0

FT

Game Details

Atletico Madrid

Leganes

4

0

FT

Game Details

Athletic Bilbao

Valencia

1

1

FT

Game Details

Málaga

Sevilla FC

0

1

FT

Game Details

Getafe

Deportivo La Coruña

3

0

FT

Game Details

Eibar

Villarreal

1

0

FT

Game Details

Celtic

Dundee

Postp

Game Details

Next



[ad_2]

Source link

Hislop: England’s goalkeeper situation is glass half empty

[ad_1]

Previous

Tottenham Hotspur

Rochdale

7:45 PM UTC

Game Details

Juventus

Atalanta

1

0

FT

Leg 2Aggregate: 2 – 0

Game Details

Lazio

AC Milan

7:45 PM UTC

Leg 2Aggregate: 0 – 0

Game Details

Paris Saint-Germain

Marseille

8:05 PM UTC

Game Details

Atletico Madrid

Leganes

8:30 PM UTC

Game Details

Athletic Bilbao

Valencia

0

1

LIVE
32′

Game Details

Málaga

Sevilla FC

0

1

LIVE
34′

Game Details

Getafe

Deportivo La Coruña

0

0

LIVE
34′

Game Details

Eibar

Villarreal

8:30 PM UTC

Game Details

Celtic

Dundee

Postp

Game Details

Next



[ad_2]

Source link

Real Madrid rely Cristiano Ronaldo vs PSG given Toni Kroos Marcelo Luka Modric injuries

[ad_1]

The FC crew explain how Real Madrid’s loss at Espanyol will affect the club’s mindset ahead of their crucial rematch with PSG in the Champions League.
Zinedine Zidane told Alvaro Morata he was a key part of Real Madrid’s title-winning side, despite Morata saying he left because he missed out on big matches.

There has been lots of talk this week — understandably enough — about the shock injury to Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, which almost certainly rules the Brazil star out of next Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid. Meanwhile there has been a lot less spoken about how Madrid are likely to arrive at the Parc des Princes with a much weaker line-up than the one that eventually outclassed their opponents in last week’s 3-1 first-leg win at the Bernabeu.

While Neymar is clearly a huge loss for PSG, they have an obvious direct replacement in Angel Di Maria, a proven international who will be highly motivated to face his former side Madrid. However, three important injuries are forcing Blancos coach Zinedine Zidane into serious structural changes to his side, and with the outcome far from certain.

Zidane could count on all his big names for last week’s first leg but then midfielder Toni Kroos picked up a knee problem during that game, left-back Marcelo tweaked a hamstring in the following Sunday’s 5-3 La Liga win at Real Betis and playmaker Luka Modric was also sidelined with another hamstring issue.

Madrid have not released many details at all on the trios’ recoveries, with Zidane limiting himself to saying he was “optimistic” about their chances of making it back in time for the second leg. But less than a week before Madrid fly to Paris, none have returned to training with the squad. There still remains the chance of some minutes in Saturday evening’s visit of Eibar to the Bernabeu but it would be risky at best to throw one less than 100 percent player, never mind all three, straight back into such a high intensity game three days’ later.

While remaining publicly positive on their prospects, Zidane has been quietly using recent games to trial different alternatives.

The left-back position is pretty straightforward. With youngster Theo Hernandez not ready for a match of this magnitude, utility man Nacho Fernandez will this time fill in on the other side of the defence. Meanwhile the most interesting development has been Zidane mostly using a flat 4-4-2 shape in recent La Liga matches. This has replaced the diamond midfield with Isco at its tip, which started the first leg against PSG and also last year’s Champions League final. Instead it has two traditional central midfield players — usually Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic — and then two wingers who have generally been Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez.

The latter pair have been in excellent form lately. Asensio made the difference from the bench in the first leg against PSG, entering at 1-1 and setting up the two late goals for Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo. BLucas Vazquez is second only to Ronaldo as Madrid’s most productive attacker of the past month, with five assists and two goals in his last five La Liga games. The pair also provide hard work off the ball and know their jobs very well.

Ronaldo’s been resting ahead of the Paris Saint-Germain second leg given injuries to key midfielders.

The new tactical set-up offers fewer positive for bigger names Gareth Bale and Isco. Bale was a surprise omission from the first leg XI and his mood appeared to be affected by that decision. The Wales international was back on the scoresheet in Saturday’s 4-0 home win over Alaves; however, this was not the usual “trident” 4-3-3, as Zidane explained afterwards.

“Gareth did very well in the 4-4-2,” said the former galactico, not sounding like he was really considering it as a regular option. “I wanted to see him in this position, but we will see what happens in the coming games.” The likelihood remains that the more tactically and defensively aware Asensio and Lucas will be the wide players at the Parc des Princes. Bale could in theory partner Ronaldo up front but Karim Benzema looks to have a lock on that role.

Isco did very well in the first half against PSG at the Bernabeu, especially when tracking back off the ball. But not for the first time this season, he faded after the break and was replaced at 1-1. The Spain international’s recent level has dipped well below the highs of spring and autumn 2017, with just one goal and zero assists in his last 10 appearances. A lack of mobility and physicality also means he’s not well suited to either the wide or central positions in a flat, four-man midfield.

The biggest issue with this 4-4-2 is a lack of creativity in central areas. Casemiro’s main (and very useful) responsibility will always be to destroy. Kovacic is more of a playmaker but the past few La Liga games have shown he cannot manage a game in the style of Modric or Kroos. Madrid’s problems in possession were stark during Tuesday’s 0-1 defeat at Espanyol, with the team having loads of the ball but no shape to their play. Kovacic completed a record 22 dribbles but after carrying the ball forward, he then often just gave it away.

Barring unlikely returns for Modric and/or Kroos, it looks like Zidane’s plan for PSG will be to sit deep, remain compact and look to counter-attacks or set-pieces for an away goal. It means that as has so often been the case for Madrid, they will be dependent on Ronaldo to take the chances that come his way.

It’s no surprise that the 33-year-old has been rested for his team’s two most recent away games so he’s primed for the trip to Paris. Neymar’s absence will give some of his lesser profile teammates a chance to shine but Madrid’s injuries put even more of a focus on Ronaldo.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan



[ad_2]

Source link

Pep Guardiola toasts Manchester City staff for Carabao Cup win – sources

[ad_1]

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola told his players to forget their Sunday’s Carabao Cup victory over Arsenal and to focus on the Premier League match against gunners on Thursday.
Jon Smith discusses Pep Guardiola’s first trophy win at Manchester City and says he expects them to use the victory as a platform for more titles this season

MANCHESTER, England — Pep Guardiola thanked staff who work at Manchester City with a champagne lunch at the club’s Etihad Campus on Wednesday after their Carabao Cup final win over Arsenal, sources have told ESPNFC.

Employees from all areas of the club were invited to the club’s canteen, where the trophy — Guardiola’s first since he took over at the club — was on show.

Sources said that Guardiola gave a short speech thanking them for their contribution to helping win the competition and told staff that they are intent on claiming more silverware, with the Premier League seen as the most important title.

Other officials from the club were also at the reception, including Omar Berrada, City’s chief operating officer, who gave a short speech and toast.

Guardiola’s team are currently 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a game in hand, which they play on Thursday night against Arsenal.

Manchester City defeated Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final to give Pep Guardiola his first trophy with the club.

The Spaniard said at a news conference that his players must quickly put their Wembley Stadium triumph behind them as the visit to the Emirates Stadium will not be easy.

“Arsenal is always a hard game and when they play, they are a tough, tough, tough team in the Emirates,” he said. “Maybe they were not consistent enough, but at home, they were so strong. I don’t know how many points they dropped but not too much. The times I have always been there with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City, it’s always tough.

“All the titles I won with my people, always the league is the most difficult because it shows a lot. The Carabao Cup you win, but two rounds [with penalty shootouts], you can be out. That is one coin, sometimes good, sometimes not.

“But the league is not. The league is consistency. The players know that. They know exactly how important the league is for our whole future. Of course, we have to be focused. We were always focused during the season, but you know how tough it will be until the end of the season.”

Jonathan is ESPN FC’s Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.



[ad_2]

Source link

Lionel Messi Luis Suarez may be rested vs. Las Palmas

[ad_1]

Ernesto Valverde reflects on the progression of record signings Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho after Barca’s 6-1 thrashing of Girona.
A hat-trick from Suarez, brace from Messi, and Coutinhos wonder-strike helped Barcelona cruise past an intimidated Girona, who failed miserably in their first ever outing to the Camp Nou. Watch all the goals from the Catalan derby here.
Watch the full match highlights as Luis Suarezs hat-trick, Messis brace, and Coutinhos first goal in the Spanish colours completed Barcelonas 6-1 riot against a much-weaker Girona side in the Catalan Derby.

BARCELONA — Ernesto Valverde wouldn’t say if he will rest Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez against Las Palmas on Thursday but he insisted his team selection will not be influenced by Sunday’s potential title-decider against Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona are seven points clear of second-place Atletico and could strike a definitive blow with a win at Camp Nou when the two teams meet this weekend.

“It’s a possibility, but we will see,” Valverde said at a Wednesday news conference when asked if the two players could take a break.

Suarez, who has scored 13 goals in his last 10 league games, spent the final five minutes of Saturday’s win over Girona trying to earn the booking which would have seen him suspended for the trip to Gran Canaria and therefore free to face Atletico.

The Uruguayan failed to accrue the caution, though, and remains available for the game. However, Barca coach Valverde may choose to rest him with the risk of a yellow card ruling him out of Sunday’s game.

Messi, meanwhile, has been rested several times this season with the latter stages of the Champions League and this summer’s World Cup in mind, and Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia has spoken with the forward about playing less.

Valverde was adamant, though, that any decision he makes will not be affected by thinking about Atletico.

“Regardless, we’re coming off a game on Saturday, so there’s plenty of time to rest for [Las Palmas],” he said. “I don’t want to worry about games after. The focus is on this game. Every game is worth three points. Thinking about Sunday’s game doesn’t help.”

Ernesto Valverde at his presentation as the new coach of Barcelona.
Barcelona’s Ernesto Valverde would not commit to resting Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez against Las Palmas.

But despite insisting he’s only thinking about Las Palmas, Valverde did complain about La Liga’s scheduling of the fixtures this week that he believes leave his side at a disadvantage.

While Barca have their longest away trip of the season — it’s a three-hour flight to the Canaries — just three days before the Atletico game, Atletico play a day earlier at home against Leganes.

“This week, the schedule is against us,” Valverde said. “There are a lot of questions and reasons why schedules are the way they are and sometimes the sporting side of things is not considered as much.

“This time it’s us who have the long journey and who play a day later than Atletico. It’s not Atletico’s fault. They sometimes have to play in Europe on Thursday and then in the league on Sunday, but we’re talking about La Liga here, not two different competitions. Considering the importance of Sunday’s game, [La Liga] should have had it in mind.”

Valverde also knocked back Diego Simeone’s suggestion that Atletico are not capable of challenging Barca for the title.

“Knowing how Simeone and his teams compete, I have no doubt that they will fight until the end,” Valverde said. “Not even he thinks the league is over — of course he doesn’t. And nor do we.”

Barca are without Nelson Semedo, who has been ruled out for five weeks with a hamstring injury, and the suspended Jordi Alba against Las Palmas.

Other than that, they’re at full strength, with Valverde once again reiterating that Gerard Pique is fine despite an ongoing knee problem.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.



[ad_2]

Source link

Frank Lampard ready to begin coaching career in the spring

[ad_1]

Frank Lampard is now a BT Sport pundit.
Frank Lampard has been working as a pundit while studying for his UEFA A Licence.

Frank Lampard has said he is open to the possibility of beginning his coaching career in the coming months.

Lampard, 39, who officially retired from playing last February, has been working as a pundit for BT Sport while studying for his UEFA A Licence.

The A Licence would qualify him to take charge of any professional team below the top tier as well as any youth or reserve side.

Chelsea have been assisting their all-time top scorer in his studies, granting him frequent access to Cobham to help under-18s coach Jody Morris take sessions in recent months, and sources have told ESPN FC that they are minded to offer him a role at the club should he want one.

Lampard has made no secret of his dream to manage Chelsea one day, but told the Evening Standard he would begin to consider his options once he reached the next milestone in his studies.

“My A Licence will be finished in the spring, in the next few months or so,” he said. “That gives me the opportunity to work. The Pro Licence will start in the summer — that is what you need to manage in the Champions League — and will take a year.

“I could get a job before that but I wouldn’t be able to take charge of a club in European competition. If the right opportunity comes up, then I’ll take a view on it.”

If all goes to plan Lampard will be qualified to coach in the Premier League and Champions League by the summer of 2019, but few in the English game expect him to have to wait that long for an opportunity.

League One club Oxford United were credited with making an approach for Lampard in January, but the 39-year-old said he would not be taking charge at the Kassam Stadium any time soon.

“I had conversations with Dave Jones, who is on the board at Oxford, in the summer about the role and it went as far as that,” Lampard explained.

“They were just conversations, but there is no truth in the current link.”

Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.



[ad_2]

Source link

Bayern Munich Franck Ribery Arjen Robben replaced by Bordeaux Malcom – Willy Sagnol

[ad_1]

ESPN FC’s Paul Mariner examines Manchester United’s resurgence against Chelsea and both managers’ shift in tactics.

Former Bayern Munich interim boss Willy Sagnol believes Bordeaux winger Malcom has the potential to replace veterans Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben at the Bundesliga champions.

Sagnol coached Bordeaux from 2014 to 2016 and is employed at Bayern in a technical capacity. He highly rates Malcom, who has eight goals and six assists in 25 games in Ligue 1 this season.

“I discovered Malcom and brought him over from Brazil to Bordeaux in January 2016,” Sagnol told Bild.

“He is more like Robben as a player than Ribery. He is not that quick but has great technique. I did receive some flak in France because I had paid €5 million for an 18-year-old, but looking at it today, it’s a real bargain — and he has far from reached the end of his development as a player.”

Sagnol, 40, won the Champions League with Bayern in 2001, and after starting the season as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant, he was placed in temporary charge following Ancelotti’s sacking and before Jupp Heynckes’ appointment in October.

Malcom
Bordeaux’s Malcom has been linked to a move to Bayern Munich this summer.

Malcom’s representatives at Elenko Sports Ltda. reportedly met Bayern officials for preliminary transfer discussions a few weeks ago. That deal was brokered by the brother of Bayern president Uli Hoeness, agent Dieter Hoeness, who has strong links to Brazil, where the player’s affairs are said to be still handled.

And although the Bundesliga champions are said to have “fundamentally” agreed terms with the player’s representatives on a five-year deal, Bayern are yet to sit down with Bordeaux to discuss a transfer fee to close out the deal.

“Bordeaux really wants to sell because they want the money,” Sagnol said.

Bordeaux, amid reported interest from Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, are looking to start the bidding at €60m for the Brazilian, according to Bild. That figure would be a record transfer fee paid by a Bundesliga club.

Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.



[ad_2]

Source link

Pep Guardiola: Premier League more important to Manchester City than Champions League

[ad_1]

Jon Smith discusses Pep Guardiola’s first trophy win at Manchester City and says he expects them to use the victory as a platform for more titles this season
Pep Guardiola wants Manchester City to take their second half performance from the League Cup final against Arsenal (3-0) into the Champions League knockout stages.

MANCHESTER, England — Pep Guardiola said the Premier League is more important than the Champions League with Manchester City still competing for both.

City have the chance to re-establish their 16-point lead at the top of the table when they face Arsenal on Thursday, four days after beating them in the Carabao Cup final.

And Guardiola insisted his side will remain focused despite City already landing their first silverware of the season and their huge lead at the top of the table.

“The fact is we are fighting for the most important title of the season by far,” Guardiola said at a news conference. “The Premier League, more than the Champions League, more than FA Cup, more than Carabao Cup, is enough argument to be focused and to stay focused because our next six fixtures are terrible in terms of the quality of the opponents. We have four games and, of course, we have a good position but it is not already done. We have still to win five or six games.

“When you think about Arsenal, you think about Chelsea, Tottenham, [Manchester] United and our away games — in Stoke City playing for the relegation, to go to Goodison Park where [Everton] always is [a] tough game — so we have a lot of tough games still to play and we have to remain focused.”

City will be without midfielder Fernandinho for Thursday’s game at the Emirates Stadium after he strained a hamstring in the Carabao Cup final, and Raheem Sterling is unlikely to be fit in time because of a hamstring injury.

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola wants Manchester City to remain focused on winning the Premier League.

Yaya Toure would seem a natural fit to replace Fernandinho, but the Ivorian has not played since Jan. 9 and has not been in the squad for six of City’s last nine matches.

“Raheem is much, much better,” Guardiola said. “I don’t know if he is able to play tomorrow but hopefully, Chelsea or Basel. Fernandinho is out for tomorrow’s game.

As for Toure, Guardiola said: “It depends on him. If he is coming back who he is, he is going to play.”

Meanwhile, Guardiola said that the club want academy product Phil Foden to stay for a long time, with sources telling ESPN FC that the England under-17 international is set to be awarded a new contract after he became a first-team regular.

“He knows, his family knows, his manager knows, we want to keep him with us for a long time,” Guardiola said. “He is a good player for the future. He has to grow up and make strong but the huge quality is there.”

Jonathan is ESPN FC’s Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.



[ad_2]

Source link

Louis van Gaal backs Jupp Heynckes for another Bayern Munich Treble

[ad_1]

Rune Jarstein stood on his head to keep Robert Lewandowski and Bayern at bay as Hertha held the Bundesliga leaders to a goalless draw.
Jupp Heynckes clarifies that Bayern is not a selling club and dismisses suggestions that Robert Lewandowski will be sold at the end of the season.
Robert Lewandowski insists Bayern Munich are not Champions League favourites despite thrashing Besiktas 5-0 in the first leg of last-16 tie.

Former Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal has hailed the turnaround inspired by Jupp Heynckes and told Sport Bild he can win the Treble this season.

Van Gaal, 66, coached Bayern from 2009 until 2011, winning the Bundesliga in his debut season and reaching the 2010 Champions League final.

He was dismissed in April 2011 after a disappointing run of results, with Heynckes replacing him as head coach and guiding Bayern to the Treble in 2013.

“It’s unbelievable what Jupp is doing again,” Van Gaal said. “The management team of [CEO Karl-Heinz] Rummenigge and [president Uli] Hoeness did the right thing and put faith in his experience.”

Heynckes, 72, took over as interim coach until the end of this season following the dismissal of Carlo Ancelotti.

Since beginning a fourth term in October, he has led Bayern to 22 wins in 24 games but is expected to leave at the end of the campaign.

“I don’t see any young German trainer like [Julian] Nagelsmann and [Thomas] Tuchel in this role. Bayern is a top club which isn’t easy to manage,” Van Gaal said.

“Heynckes has showed everybody again what he is capable of. He can win the Bundesliga, the German Cup and even the Champions League.

“He hasn’t lost his qualities from the Treble-winning season just because he has got older.”

Louis van Gaal has backed Jupp Heynckes to win another Treble.

Van Gaal said a strained relationship with Hoeness had been a stumbling block during his time in Germany.

“Hoeness and I had a massive argument,” he said. “Hoeness wanted [Philipp] Lahm to continue to play on the left, but history has proved me right.

“Lahm won the Champions League and a World Cup at right-back.”

Thomas Muller has said Van Gaal “had the biggest influence” on his career, but the coach said he had been criticised for picking the inexperienced player and claimed Hoeness told his wife: “Your husband has chosen the wrong team again.”

“It was the same with David Alaba,” he said. “His mistake in the final minute caused Nuremberg’s equaliser and also led to my dismissal. Today, Alaba is one of the greatest talents Bayern possess.”

Van Gaal also said there had been differences with Hoeness over his “golden rule” that the team is more important than the individual.

“Uli Hoeness has a special relationship with certain players, talking regularly to them and fighting their cause, like [Franck] Ribery, for example, who according to Herr Hoeness must always play,” he said.

“That’s not good for a coach, in my opinion. The team is the most important thing and not an individual player. Hoeness and I differ in this respect.”

Asked whether he would like to coach Bayern again, Van Gaal said: “I’ve always come back — at Barcelona, with the Netherlands national team, Ajax Amsterdam, AZ Alkmaar.

“But Bayern? I don’t think so. As long as Uli Hoeness is at the club, I will not work there again.”

Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.



[ad_2]

Source link

Barcelona Gerard Pique thrilled with World Cup of Tennis

[ad_1]

Gerard Pique reflects on his journey at Barcelona, the club’s second treble and more following his contract extension.
Gerard Pique reflects on his journey at Barcelona, the club’s second treble and more following his contract extension.
Gerard Pique reflects on his journey at Barcelona, the club’s second treble and more following his contract extension.
Gerard Pique reflects on his journey at Barcelona, the club’s second treble and more following his contract extension.
Gerard Pique reflects on his journey at Barcelona, the club’s second treble and more following his contract extension.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said he is excited to be the driving force behind International Tennis Federation (ITF) plans to revamp the Davis Cup.

Pique’s company, Kosmos, will invest $3 billion into the sport over the next 25 years to not just help transform the Davis Cup into the World Cup of Tennis, but also to help develop the game worldwide.

Kosmos, an investment group founded by Pique, is backed by Hiroshi Mikitani, the chairman and CEO of Japanese company Rakuten, who have been Barca’s main sponsors since 2017.

“Kosmos is thrilled to join in this exciting partnership with the ITF,” Pique said in a statement issued by the organisation. “Together we can elevate the Davis Cup to new heights by putting on a must-see World Cup of Tennis Finals featuring the top nations and top players.”

The ITF announced plans earlier this week for the Davis Cup to be transformed into a one-week, one-location, 18-nation World Cup of Tennis in a major overhaul aimed at enticing the best men’s players to participate.

David Haggerty, president of the ITF, said that the changes were aimed at making the tournament more appealing to the game’s top players.

The Davis Cup has struggled for relevance in a crowded sporting calendar in recent years because many top players have chosen not to play.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has wanted to create a World Cup of Tennis for several years.

Pique first proposed a rival to the Davis Cup during talks with ATP chief Chris Kermode, among others, last May at the Madrid Open.

The Barca centre-back sought the opinion of some of the game’s top players at the time and the feedback he received on his plan was positive.

Speaking of Pique’s suggested changes last year, Rafael Nadal called the ITF “static” and criticised the organisation’s inability to change with the times.

Andy Murray, meanwhile, said it was “a really exciting idea which would be a really good thing for tennis.”

Novak Djokovic added: “I’ve spoken with [Pique] many times about some good initiatives — but some of them are confidential. It’s fantastic that a football star like Pique would get involved with tennis. He’s a great guy, and I have a lot of respect for him.

“[The proposal] is something that would only bring positives. There are ideas and projects, but tennis is really complicated; there are lots of tournaments, institutions and associations. In any case, all this is really good for the sport.”

The ITF finally bought into Pique’s idea after the Spain international presented the proposal to the board in Barcelona on Saturday before his side’s 6-1 La Liga win against Girona.

Haggerty said plans are in place for the revamp to take place in 2019, with the first World Cup of Tennis scheduled for November.

A round-robin format will be followed by a quarterfinal knockout stage. Each tie will consist of two singles and one doubles over best-of-three sets.

The response from the wider tennis world has been mixed, with the ITF’s announcement catching some by surprise and leaving others sceptical.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.



[ad_2]

Source link

Antoine Griezmann delivers his best performance in an Atletico Madrid shirt in win over Leganes

[ad_1]

Antoine Griezmann scores for Atletico Madrid against Leganes.
Antoine Griezmann scored four goals against Leganes and could have had more.

Antoine Griezmann was simply sensational as he bagged all four goals in Atletico Madrid’s 4-0 romp of Leganes on Wednesday at the Wanda Metropolitano.

The pouring rain could not extinguish the Frenchman’s fire as he became the first Atleti player to net successive La Liga hat tricks and grabbed his 100th Atletico goal in the process of doing so.

It might have all been different had Jan Oblak’s fingernails not diverted Gerard Gumbau’s thunderbolt onto the bar early before Filipe Luis scrambled it away, but after that it was the Griezmann show.

The Frenchman scored twice in each half as Atleti provisionally closed the gap on league leaders Barca to four points with a trip to the Camp Nou on Sunday.

Positives

Aside from Griezmann, the role of Diego Costa cannot be underplayed. He frees up the Frenchman and occupies defenders, allowing him to flourish. What a partnership.

Negatives

Leganes actually had quite a lot of chances, and on another night might have scored a couple. If Atleti give up that many chances against Barca, they will be punished.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — Diego Simeone has his team firing at the business end of the season.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Jan Oblak, 8 — Strange to win 4-0 but yet your keeper is one of the side’s best performers. Showed once again why he is arguably the best in the world as his fingertip save denied Gumbau, before producing two flying saves in the second period to ensure a clean sheet.

DF Juanfran, 6 — Attacked at will down the right. Always willing, however at times his final ball let him down. Did link well with Angel Correa.

DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 7 — Looked nervy early on, losing the ball with poor control before winning it back with a strong challenge. Went close with a header at the other end, too.

DF Diego Godin, 7 — Showed why he is a defender as he mistimed a run when free in front of goal and was correctly flagged offside.

DF Filipe Luis, 8 — Brilliant clearance off the line early on kept it at 0-0. Showed vision and class to set up Griezmann’s third.

MF Koke, 8 — Getting back to his best. Went close with a curler early on, before playing a sensational pass that sent Griezmann through to open the scoring.

Diego Costa was a terrific
Diego Costa was terrific vs. Leganes despite being overshadowed by Antoine Griezmann and failing to score.

MF Thomas Partey, 7 — Tireless in the middle of the park as he always is. His growing importance to the side was shown as he was the first man subbed when Atleti were comfortably winning. He was one yellow away from missing Sunday’s showdown.

MF Saul Niguez, 7 — Not at his best product-wise, however, his stamina and late runs into the box were impressive. Getting there.

MF Angel Correa, 6 — Strange as he looked a threat every time he got the ball. Often chose the wrong option or tried to do too much himself.

FW Antoine Griezmann, 10 — It might sound like hyperbole but this was his best performance in an Atleti shirt and arguably his career as a whole. Four brilliant goals, hit the post, was denied one-on-one and got booked for scurrying back to make a slide tackle in his own half. More of this, please.

FW Diego Costa, 8 — Did not get the goal his performance warranted, fluffing a chance, but his partnership with Griezmann is growing by the game.

Substitutes

MF Vitolo (for Thomas), 6 — Not as involved as he would have liked, but a decent run out.

FW Fernando Torres (for Costa), NR — With the game done and dusted he struggled to get involved.

FW Kevin Gameiro (for Griezmann), NR — See above. Harsh to leave him out given his form of late, but unfortunately for the Frenchman three does not go into two.

Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.



[ad_2]

Source link

Wenger is not worried about his job

[ad_1]

Previous

Tottenham Hotspur

Rochdale

7:45 PM UTC

Game Details

Juventus

Atalanta

4:30 PM UTC

Leg 2Aggregate: 1 – 0

Game Details

Lazio

AC Milan

7:45 PM UTC

Leg 2Aggregate: 0 – 0

Game Details

Paris Saint-Germain

Marseille

8:05 PM UTC

Game Details

Atletico Madrid

Leganes

8:30 PM UTC

Game Details

Athletic Bilbao

Valencia

6:30 PM UTC

Game Details

Málaga

Sevilla FC

6:30 PM UTC

Game Details

Getafe

Deportivo La Coruña

6:30 PM UTC

Game Details

Eibar

Villarreal

8:30 PM UTC

Game Details

Celtic

Dundee

Postp

Game Details

Next



[ad_2]

Source link

Espanyol vs. Real Madrid – Football Match Report – February 27, 2018

[ad_1]

Gerard Moreno struck deep in stoppage-time to give Espanyol a dramatic 1-0 win over Real Madrid at RCDE Stadium on Tuesday.

A much-changed Real Madrid, with Cristiano Ronaldo left out of the squad, looked to have done enough to labour to a share of the points.

However, with more than two minutes of added time played, Espanyol broke clear and Moreno crashed the ball past Keylor Navas to give the Barcelona club a first win over Real Madrid since 2007.

The result ended Espanyol’s 22-match winless streak against Real, while also snapping Los Blancos‘ 11-game winning streak against the Barcelona-based club.

Madrid were looking to build on a seven-match unbeaten run in La Liga, which had seen them pick up six victories and score 30 goals. Instead, they lost a fifth game this season after only losing three times in the 2016-17 campaign.

Head coach Zinedine Zidane opted to make five changes from Sunday’s 4-0 home win over Alaves, with captain Sergio Ramos back from suspension.

Gareth Bale retained his place, and the Wales forward almost opened the scoring on seven minutes.

However, his close-range header flew straight at Espanyol keeper Diego Lopez after right-back Achraf Hakimi had got on the overlap.

Raphael Varane’s header from a corner was just off target as Real continued to dominate the opening exchanges.

Pablo Piatti fired well over before striker Moreno was denied by Navas, who threw out a leg to deflect his angled shot wide.

Espanyol had the ball in the net just after the half-hour, but Moreno’s finish from a long-range free kick by Carlos Sanchez was offside in what replays showed to be a debatable decision.

At the other end, Marcos Llorente pulled a low effort wide as again Real failed to make the most of their possession.

Bale wanted a penalty just before half-time when his shot cannoned off Victor Sanchez, but the referee was not interested in the appeal for what would have been a harsh handball decision against the Espanyol midfielder.

Early in the second half, Navas had to make a smart save at the near post from Sergio Garcia’s angled effort.

From the resulting corner, Real were fortunate not to go behind as Sergi Darder’s header looped onto the top of the crossbar.

With 20 minutes left, Karim Benzema, who netted a late penalty against Alaves, replaced Isco.

Navas again needed to be alert when producing a smart low stop down to his left from Moreno’s header.

The Real Madrid keeper, though, could do little to prevent Espanyol snatching a dramatic winner deep into stoppage time.

Moments after Ramos, who had been pressed forward by Zidane, was just unable to get on the end of a low ball across the face of goal, the hosts broke quickly with the ball worked out to Garcia on the right.

Garcia pulled the ball back towards the edge of the penalty area, where Moreno arrived to crash it past Navas with almost the last kick of the game and seal Espanyol’s first win over Real Madrid in some 22 matches.

Defeat leaves Real Madrid in third place, 14 points behind leaders Barcelona, who have a game in hand and two ahead of Valencia, but having played one match more.

[ad_2]

Source link

Barcelona Real Madrid in El Clasico at Camp Nou on May 6

[ad_1]

Barcelona rocked the Bernabeu and moved 14 points clear of Real Madrid with a 3-0 victory, inspired by Leo Messi’s goal and assist.
The FC crew react to ESPN FC Barcelona correspondent Sam Marsden’s player ratings after Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Real Madrid.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has said that the second Clasico of the 2017-18 season will see Real Madrid visit Barcelona’s Camp Nou on Sunday, May 6.

Given Barcelona’s current seven-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid and 14-point advantage over Real Madrid in third, Barcelona may have already wrapped up the title when the game takes place.

Tebas told radio show “El Larguero” that the game, which falls in Week 36 of the campaign, “will be on Sunday at a quarter to nine,” although the time and date has not yet been officially confirmed.

Barcelona’s 3-0 win at the Bernabeu in the reverse fixture earlier this season was one of the key moments in the 2017-18 campaign so far, and although Zinedine Zidane and his team continue to insist that they have not given up hope of reeling in their rivals, many around the Bernabeu have already focused on the Champions League as the main hope of success this term.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will meet again in El Clasico on May 6.

Should Barca be already confirmed as La Liga champions by May 6, debate is certain over whether Madrid should form a “pasillo” guard of honour as their opponents take to the pitch. Barca decided against making the gesture in December, when Madrid were arriving home as recently crowned Club World Cup winners.

A Clasico falling late in the season can often be decisive in the title race. However, Lionel Messi’s hat trick in Barcelona’s 4-3 win at the Bernabeu in April 2017 did not stop Madrid from winning last season’s title, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s late strike as Madrid claimed a 2-1 victory at the Camp Nou a year earlier was not enough to stop Barca from winning the trophy.

This year’s second Clasico comes at the end of the week in which the second leg of the Champions League semifinals will be played with both Barca and Madrid still hopeful of taking part at that stage.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan



[ad_2]

Source link

La Liga’s top strikers in a golden era after overcoming adversity

[ad_1]

The FC crew praise Cristiano Ronaldo for his leadership, particularly with Karim Benzema, as Real Madrid’s captain in their win over Alaves.

Something extremely special and exciting is happening in Spanish football, and the weekend added copious proof of this phenomenon.

Because so much attention is lavished on the perpetual duel between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to demonstrate who wears the crown in La Liga, indeed in Europe, the fact that we’re living in a golden era for strikers in Spain drifts under the radar.

We are only just reaching March, yet a combination of four of Spain’s attack forces have hit the net 159 times between them across all competitions. Records are being set left, right and centre, while fans — in the stadia and watching on TV — and sponsors are getting more than their money’s worth.

Just take a look at the performances in La Liga’s week 25; all but one of the strikers I have in mind hit the net.

Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez and Iago Aspas both scored; Messi and Luis Suarez shared five between goals them in the thrashing of Girona; the “BBC” of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Ronaldo all scored for Real Madrid for the first time in 22 months; and Atletico, in a display of shock and awe, smashed Sevilla thanks to four goals between Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa.

The only guy in our 159-goal hit squad not to score at the weekend was Kevin Gameiro, but with five goals and two assists in his past nine appearances, he’s off the hook.

Everywhere you look, there are high-water marks of one type or another as the key forwards at Celta, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico produce their magic.

For example, Celta haven’t had such a prolific partnership at this stage of any season for 70 years. Only the Camp Nou has a strike pairing with more goals than Aspas and Gomez (30) so far this term, despite the fact that the Spaniard and his young Uruguayan apprentice are in their first few months of getting to know each other.

Luis Suarez & Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are leading the way in Spain.

Barca? At a time when they lead the title chase, they have qualified for their third successive Copa del Rey final and they stand well-poised against Chelsea in the Champions League, Messi has hit the woodwork 17 times — more than anyone in the history of La Liga.

Imagine if even half of those shots had clipped post or bar and headed into the net, rather than wide. Europe’s Golden Boot would be his already (he’s four points off leader Edinson Cavani), and La Liga would have been wrapped up — in March.

Of course, being Messi, it doesn’t stop there. This season he has scored against Gianluigi Buffon for the first time, broken his 12-year drought against Chelsea, become the highest-scoring player against Real Madrid in the history of La Liga, passed 200 assists for his club and become the first in Liga history to score 15 or more goals in 10 consecutive seasons.

Not to be left behind, Suarez’s hat trick against Girona means that he’s now sixth in the all-time Barcelona scoring charts — after just 40 months at the club. That’s inhuman. Having gone 478 minutes without a goal (the worst run of his life), the Uruguayan has now scored in eight straight matches for the first time ever, and his current run in La Liga is 17 goals in just 14 appearances.

Over at the Spanish, European and world champions, the story presents a little differently.

Zinedine Zidane’s team has lacked punch this season, and their infamous “BBC” has been questioned as never before. Yet they were Europe’s first team to score 100 goals in all competitions. Only three sides — Barcelona, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain — have a superior goal-per-game average in the five big leagues.

And then there is Ronaldo himself.

At times looking as if he’d forgotten all the basics about first-time control, striking the ball cleanly and predatory instincts, he then suddenly became record-breaking. Nobody has ever scored so many times in a Champions League group stage (nine); he’s in the middle of a twelve-in-seven-match goal glut, and that makes 28 for the term — in an “awful” season for him.

Atleti’s profile is a little distinct. As a team, they’ve often scored more by this stage of the title chase, they’re out of the Champions League and their key forwards — Costa, Griezmann and Gameiro — have each had significantly higher totals at this stage of a season.

Diego Costa celebrates after scoring a goal for Atletico Madrid against Sevilla.
Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa, right, make just one of a handful of strike partnerships lighting up La Liga this season.

However, the front three have blended superbly after a start to the season in which Griezmann, as Diego Simeone acknowledged on Sunday, was looking as if he regretted not joining Manchester United, as planned. It also was a start in which Gameiro’s injury problems meant that his manager didn’t really trust him until December — and while Costa was ineligible to play for five months.

The beautiful thing, at least for neutrals and fans of Los Colchoneros, is that with these three playing intuitively, with Griezmann producing some of his most thrilling football ever and with solidity behind them, Atleti have become genuine contenders for an unlikely double of La Liga and the Europa League.

Entertainment aside, what adds fibre to this extravaganza of goals and records is the fact that the majority of the big four’s attackers have had to cope with varying degrees of adversity over the past few months.

Suarez, for example, has been troubled by the return of a recurring meniscus problem, to the extent that he was playing through knee pain, training with slightly less intensity and being perhaps a kilo too heavy.

“Like the fans, I reached the point of asking myself what was up, why the ball suddenly didn’t seem to want to go in,” he explained in November. “The knee has bothered me sometimes, but more than failing to score, what I beat myself up about is when I do things badly, like losing the ball. That’s when I worry.”

What a long time ago such preoccupation seems now.

Benzema’s long goal drought and shrivelling confidence left his own fans whistling and jeering him, repeatedly, at the Bernabeu, as he found ever more remarkable ways to hit the woodwork, skew chances narrowly wide or allow the opposition keeper to have the game of his life.

And while he’s hardly prolific right now, the quality of his play in recent weeks has soared upward, and it’s once again a joy to see him creating and scoring goals to the point that Ronaldo, notoriously “more egocentric than me” by Benzema’s own admission, handed his French colleague the penalty against Alaves on Saturday.

Only part of it was out of sympathy for Benzema’s lack of goals. The rest was a gracias, amigo for the sublime assist Madrid’s No. 9 gave Ronaldo to open the scoring against Abelardo’s in-form Basque side.

Converting it meant another record: Benzema is now equal with the mighty Paco Gento and just one goal off becoming Madrid’s sixth-highest scorer ever.

“I like playing with Cristiano, a guy who wants to play one-touch football,” Benzema already has explained. “I’m a goal scorer, but when you’ve got someone next to you who regularly scores 50 or more per season, given that a ‘good’ striker used to get 25, I don’t mind feeding him the ball.

“The pressure is the toughest thing about playing for Madrid, but what I’ll never do is just run senselessly after lost possession in order to get a cheap ovation off the crowd. I’d rather play with efficiency than to the gallery.”

Karim Benzema
Benzema has struggled but has been supported by his manager.

The common theme is managerial patience. Zidane stuck, loyally, behind Benzema, and it looks as if his bet is coming good at the right time — notwithstanding the faith he kept putting in his French compatriot having cost him credibility in some critics’ eyes.

Ernesto Valverde backed Suarez’s desire not to have a minor keyhole surgery to repair the meniscus damage so that the striker could try to ensure Uruguay’s qualification for the World Cup. That was a success, as was the national team giving him time off during the November international break. Since then, he has not looked back.

What about Griezmann’s red card and two lonely goals between August and the end of November, all while he gave every appearance of a footballer who wished he was elsewhere and while his representatives allowed Barcelona’s courtship to begin? All forgotten. Simeone never blamed him, never abandoned him.

These guys who thrill us haven’t had it easy. Consider: Bale’s injury troubles; Messi being stripped of “MSN” power after Neymar’s peremptory departure; Aspas’ six-game drought to start the season; Gomez thinking he was going to be sold to the Chinese league, just a couple of months after signing for Celta; and Costa’s six-month solitary hell with no game to look forward to and session after session under the command of Atleti’s dreaded fitness guru “Professor” Ortega.

Without their bristling, aggressive competitiveness, the beautiful feats they produce for us wouldn’t happen. But the lesson is that they need each other, they often need the patience of a strong coach — and above all, they need to believe when nobody else does.

Graham Hunter covers Spain for ESPN FC and Sky Sports. Author of “Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World.” Twitter: @BumperGraham.



[ad_2]

Source link

Gianluigi Buffon confirms surprise return for Italy in March friendlies

[ad_1]

Relive ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti’s passionate response after Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Gianluigi Buffon confirmed he will accept an invitation to play for Italy in their upcoming friendlies with Argentina and England after caretaker coach Luigi Di Biagio said he wanted to count on the 40-year-old for what could prove to be his only games in charge.

Buffon appeared to have retired from international football after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup, but he is set for two more appearances after telling Mediaset that he could never turn down a call-up for his country.

“There’s nothing to add other than that I feel a sense of responsibility and faith which I still feel I must give to the national team during this transitional moment,” Buffon said. “There is a cycle of delicate friendly games and I thought I would go on holiday for a few days, but when the national team needs you, you have got to be present and not desert them. It’s a form of faithfulness and responsibility towards Italy.

“A new Italy national team is being born and the first games are hardly easy. We face Argentina and England and I think that a few experienced players will be useful at the start.”

After those two games, Buffon may then decide to call it a day from international football, although it is not yet certain he will hang up his gloves for good in the summer.

“I just want to focus on the end of the season now,” Buffon said. “I’m convinced and relaxed about whatever my decision will be, which will be announced together with the club at the right moment.

“For those who live life with such strong emotions as us footballers, stopping playing is like the first death that you suffer, because it’s the end of such a beautiful experience that anything else does not seem to matter. But then, with time, you realise that there are other things which still make you feel important.”

At a news conference on Monday, Di Biagio also hinted that Mario Balotelli may be part of his squad selection and Buffon said he would welcome the former Manchester City and Liverpool forward’s return.

“I’d be delighted if Mario came back because he would have the opportunity to demonstrate he has matured 100 percent,” Buffon said. “He could show that he has continuity and that he’s become a great footballer.

“I think that what Balotelli has done over the past two years warrants a recall to the national team. He’s hugely talented and he’s never had this continuity, but the hope is there that he has fully matured.

“I’ve only seen the same power and precision of shot as he has from [Francesco] Totti.”

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.



[ad_2]

Source link

Bastian Schweinsteiger did not deserve Jose Mourinho treatment – Louis van Gaal

[ad_1]

Former Premier League goalkeeper Shaka Hislop examines the improvements David De Gea has made that’ve helped transform him into the world’s best goalkeeper.
Romelu Lukaku critic Steve Nicol offers high praise for the Man United striker’s performance against Chelsea, but explains why he’s still not sold on the Belgian.
Jose Mourinho was happy with United’s progression through the game and how they battled back against a “very good” Chelsea side.

Louis van Gaal has hit out at Jose Mourinho over his treatment of Bastian Schweinsteiger during their time together at Manchester United.

The midfielder was brought to Old Trafford from Bayern Munich by Van Gaal in 2015, but after Mourinho replaced the Dutchman a year later Schweinsteiger was frozen out and made to train with the reserves.

He returned to the first-team squad to make three substitute appearances before leaving for Chicago Fire.

Mourinho later said he had made a mistake in his handling of the German.

“Schweinsteiger was older, of course, but not too old,” Van Gaal told Sport Bild. “Still, his body was not able to keep up with the high demands of Premier League.

“Bayern sold him to us as fit player, but, in reality, physically he had reached the end.

“How Mourinho treated him after me, Schweini did not deserve this. But it also explains how things were with Schweinsteiger.

“It’s a shame because he is a player like Luis Enrique, Mark van Bommel or Philipp Lahm, a character always present on the pitch.”

Bastian Schweinsteiger’s time at Manchester United came to an end under Jose Mourinho.

Van Gaal was sacked after two years at Old Trafford. He won the FA Cup in his final match in charge but could not produce a finish higher than fourth in the Premier League.

It might have been different had he managed to sign two other players from the Bundesliga — Mats Hummels and Thomas Muller.

He said: “I wanted to sign Hummels for Manchester United. But because at that time he was coming out of a poorer season, we didn’t do it in the end.

“I can confirm that I wanted Muller. But there was nothing we could do. FC Bayern made it clear that they would not sell him.”

Despite being sacked by Bayern, Van Gaal said he still had an affection for the club, which he said was different to Manchester United.

“Of course I do,” he said when asked if he still loved Bayern. “Manchester United who I last coached is a commercial club. Totally different to Bayern. The bosses, former players like Karl Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness are former players who know what they are talking about.

“Football is the most important thing, not money like it is now at United. That’s why I love Bayern.”

ESPN FC’s Mark Lovell contributed to this report.

Rob is ESPN FC’s Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.



[ad_2]

Source link